I was so saddened to hear that actress Natasha Richardson died today. She suffered a closed-head injury during a beginner’s ski lesson at a Canadian resort. Initially after falling she was thought to be fine, but later in the day complained of head pain, and rapidly declined.

I particularly feel for victims of head injury. I am a veteran of several concussions, all occurring over a short time span, one from a fall on a ski hill. I was a horribly inexperienced skier, didn’t have the skills to be skiing as fast as I was, swerved to avoid a group of people, and in what must have been quite a spectacular mess, caught one of my own skis to the head, knocking me out stone cold. I remember the ski patrol taking me down the hill in the ambu-toboggan, and asking me all kinds of questions, trying to assess my awareness, short- and long-term memory, before the ambulance got there. It’s so odd that I still remember one of the questions, which was “When was Abraham Lincoln’s assassination?” (April 15, 1865, if you have forgotten).

I am profoundly grateful that none of my accidents were serious, but I am very aware that they could have been, and that I either have the skull of Homer Simpson or just am extremely fortunate. I am also now aware, as there has been so much more research into the effects of concussion and brain injury since then, that all my injuries surely had some effect, likely still affecting me today. It is a strange and sad thought.

I never went skiing again after that fall at age 14. If I somehow ever go again, you can be damn sure that I will be wearing a helmet. Having lived in Colorado for 15 years, I know this for a fact: skiers die every year, plenty of them of all ages and abilities, from head injuries sustained on the slopes, usually from hitting a tree or having another skier run into them. Most very likely would have survived if they had been wearing ski helmets.

Miss Richardson was 45.